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The other day, I was sitting at my office, about to step into an important meeting with a few powerful female superiors, some of whom are German and impeccably dressed in neoprene two-piece-suits and come to an intimidating six feet two inches tall in Louboutin heels, when I received a text from a friend of mine who’d recently birthed a newborn. It read as follows: “How’s the new job? Stop being such a feminist. Just kidding! But seriously, when are you going to get married and have a baby already?” Before I had the chance to breathe or stab someone in the eye, I felt the tears welling up. This wasn’t the first accusation of its type that I’d been blindsided with lately. The night before, a stay-at-home wife of a web designer friend of mine had jabbed at me for having a third cocktail at a birthday dinner and basically said she couldn’t envision me as a mother because I’m so obsessed with “blogging about vaginas.” For the record, I do love blogging about gender issues for this website, but, if anything, I think this helps me get a better grasp on the complexities of joining the mom cult.

Do not cry at your desk,” I thought. “Showing weakness at work is like bleeding from your vagina into a pool of sharks,” I instinctually tweeted. (My mom friend isn’t on twitter, and even if she was, I’m sure she’s too high on placenta pills to care about my passive aggressive tweets about her unintentional #nokids shaming).

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I took a deep breath, attempted to eye slurp back my tears, and shot off, “Everything will happen naturally and at its own pace, just like it has been for the last four years of my relationship.” Then I added, “For the record, I don’t think you are trying to make me feel bad or judged, but that is definitely the effect it is having.” And with that, I flipped my phone over on its stupid face to avoid re-reading and further over-analyzing, de-linted my architectural Theyskens by Theory blazer which exponentially increased the appearance of knowing what the fuck I’m doing in the presence of these Director and CEO level women (some of whom have kids!), and headed into my meeting to plan editorial calendars and marketing initiatives and other fancy, high-level things I do to make money to prepare for my future and also to satiate my creative side because I am a woman with a brain and not solely a baby fabricator.

To be totally fair, my speech pattern would have you believe I am obsessed with having a kid. In the last year or so, I haven’t exactly shied away from half-joking about my baby fever to my friends and significant other (whom I’ve been engaged to for two years and haven’t even begun planning a wedding with because clearly commemorating major life moments in any official capacity aren’t my thing). I even coined the term #explovaries, a genius compounding of explosion and ovaries, which, when reaching its full potential in the form of a hashtag, perfectly captures what the mere sight of a doughy baby thigh on Instagram does to me. I guess I just never considered that all my goo-goo and ga-ga-ing would come back to judge me. I guess I’d forgotten that there are repercussions to over-sharing that go beyond a story about testing false positive for gonorrhea and almost roofie-ing your new boyfriend with antibiotics existing on the Internet for everyone to see forever and ever.

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me & my pink hair, practicing for “alternative” motherhood

Like most tropes wrapped up in pink lace and labeled as traditionally feminine, I feel conflicted about this whole kid-having business (just ask Ricki Lake – it is a business). While I’m fairly certain that I want to be a mother – I’ve already got the bizarre food cravings and preggo dressing mood board on lock – I feel perplexed and terrified by the logistics of it, and thus can’t help but approach it rationally. As I watch people, some of both lesser financial means and fewer years of therapy, churn critters out like it ain’t no thang, I wonder if maybe I just don’t have the instinct like I thought I did. This is seriously fucking with everything I was taught to believe about progress and life and forward motion and what comes first and what happens next. My recently rehabbed childhood friend getting knocked up with twins and then marrying the rich baby daddy is really throwing me off. The woman with the manic depressive Facebook statuses who can’t seem to stay in one place of residence for more than two weeks without getting evicted rapidly approaching her due date is fucking freaking me out.

What does it say about me, a functioning adult in a stable relationship, that I can’t get myself into the headspace of giving up my burgeoning writing career, cool marketing job, and jam-packed brunching schedule, in favor of getting morning sickness for three months and focusing entirely on supporting and nurturing a tiny fledging that will do nothing but suck my nips and then my bank account dry for more than two decades. I’m not even saying I need to be ready right now, but shouldn’t I at least begin to prepare for the sacrifice?

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probably should have chosen a more “authoritative” photo of Ricki, but…

To bring it back to the tweet that set this whole essay off, it’s more about the priorities I’ve been grappling with than what my friend initially texted. To be honest, she was just reacting, albeit a little insensitively, to my repeated expression of a desire to incubate a baby and to steal one from an unsuspecting mother if my man did not provide me with one in a timely-ish fashion. Like any supportive friend with the home birthing video footage to back it up, she was offering much needed assurance that it is absolutely possible to be an entrepreneur and a mom (both of which she is). Her advice is exactly the kind I’m starved for, because it’s the fear of settling or doing too little with my life or being wildly unsatisfied, that tends to scare me off.

So, if I’m being honest, the life decisions of strangers on Instagram and old friends on Facebook feel like a personal attack because I’m afraid that the “shift” won’t happen for me. Perhaps, even more honestly, I’m equally afraid of the “shift” actually happening, of my priorities changing and what that means about my feminism and professional ambitions. I’m afraid that I’m not irresponsible (or fertile) enough to get accidentally pregnant, and that I will therefore have to consciously enter into this life-changing milestone occasion without anything to force me to give up my independence (and those treasured pink vodkas). I’m mortified to admit, but sometimes the sound of another human being coughing agitates me to the point where I want to punch something. Impatience does not a mommy make.

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When I first received that text message, I felt defensive and cornered. But I think it’s because she was tapping into my deepest insecurities – that I’m
“too feminist” to have kids. But just like I told mom friend in my textual rebuttal:  if I sit back, work hard, focus on myself, my career, and my relationship, juice ginger and do squats on occasion, I’m fairly confident I’ll find myself arriving at the next East Side stoop with enough money in the bank to buy that Bugaboo X Pendleton stroller I’ve always envisioned little Georgia wailing her pudgy-little-burden-of-a-cute-face off in. #noboysallowed #crossyourfingers

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Jane Helpern

About Jane Helpern

Writer & Over-sharer. @janeohelp jane@cultistzine.com